True Confessions of The Straight Man is Antonia Kasper’s smart, funny, moving, and highly entertaining parody of 1990’s-style social and sexual mores. As pop culture observers will remember, it is not hyperbole to say that the so-called “Gay ’90’s” were a time when LGBTQ and drag characters finally came out of the closet en masse on TV and in the movies. Kasper’s delightful piece takes place in the era before kids (and some adults) played with Beanie Babies and Furbies before trading them in for cellphones. How do we know it’s the ’90’s? One of the characters reads a Cosmopolitan with Cindy Crawford on the cover. Another needs to borrow a quarter to make a phone call. And, decorating the wall of the main characters’ apartment is the epitome of every straight man’s carnal desires: Pamela Anderson!
Speaking of heterosexuality… The titular character of Kasper’s out-rageous comedy is Todd Robinson (Nicholas Schommer), a 20-something single guy from Asbury Park who’s now living in New York City. He’s handsome, well-groomed, polite, sweet, and sensitive. He even loves to write poetry. But Todd is harboring a secret: He’s… STRAIGHT! The problem is, everyone seems to think otherwise. In the meantime, Todd’s well-muscled, well-tattooed roommate John Bruno (Lawrence Karl), is getting more action than all the Friends combined. One night, Todd finally meets the girl who may be “Ms. Right”, a pretty woman originally from Ohio named Kate (Hannah Coffman). Unfortunately, Kate has been burned by too many bad relationships, and just wants a gay bestie. After some resistance, Todd surrenders to playing the gay act to get closer to his potential love interest. He soon gets in over his head. The well-meaning Kate tries to get Todd to “come out”, taking him to such queer hotspots as Tony’s Ponies, Meatballs, and Mixed Nuts to dance to ABBA and Whitney Houston. (In a prime example of comedic talent, Coffman’s “getting down” to I Wanna Dance with Somebody may be the most, uhm… “Caucasian” dancing I’ve seen in a while.) The comedy of errors continues: Todd even goes as far as to convince his rough brute of a roommate pose as his lover. In another plot twist, John becomes fast friends with Hell’s Kitchen’s reigning socialite Fab (Scott Kall), who does drag in the alter ego of “Anita Mann”. Before you can say “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, John is soon enjoying a makeover– buying new clothes, cleaning the apartment, cooking, and (Gasp!) singing along to Barbra. In the meantime, John’s blonde girlfriend Adrienne (Megan Styrna) is getting suspicious about her man’s new “persona”, and puts on her walkin’ boots…
Will Todd get the girl? Will
Rocky John and Adrienne reunite? Will our love-hungry Fab finally find a soulmate? Let’s just say that there is indeed a gay ending (“gay” as in “happy”) in True Confessions of The Straight Man— but not before more music, more dancing, and many more zany twists and turns…
True Confessions of The Straight Man is peppered with a seemingly infinite CD boxed set of crowd-pleasing pop hits– many of them sung live by the cast. (How could you resist a soundtrack that features Time Warp and Barbie Girl in the same scene? And, I never knew that the word “penis” was in the English translation of La Vie en Rose…) The entire cast is wonderful, with the seven actors creating characters as colorful as the set pieces. All of them excel in being funny, whether it’s via their delivery of the play’s many humorous lines or via physical comedy. As Fab/Anita Mann, Scott Kall is fab-ulous as an over-the-top (both in personality and in wardrobe choices) drag star. Many of the movies from the ’90’s had the tendency to use drag queens for one-dimensional comic relief. The playwright has decide to make this character with three dimensions (and then some). Nicholas Schommer as Todd and Lawrence Karl as John make a well-matched odd couple. Hannah Coffman and Megan Styrna are also gifted comediennes; Styrna’s Adrienne, in particular, steals every scene she’s in with her Staten Island accent and attitude to match. Rounding out the cast are Elise Ramaekers and Joe Diez, playing multiple roles with ease.
Considering the nonstop bawdy humor, as well as the fact that the characters’ sex drives are guiding almost all of the action in the play, Antonia Kasper’s rainbow-colored farce is surprisingly (Dare I say?) warm and sweet at heart. True Confessions of The Straight Man may be the best 90’s sitcom never made. On the night this reviewer saw it, the audience certainly supplied a very loud laugh track!
True Confessions of The Straight Man continues on Friday, June 24 at 7PM and Thursday, June 30 at 7PM at The Laurie Beechman Theatre inside West Bank Cafe, 407 West 42 Street, just west of 9th Avenue. Tickets are $25, with a $25 food/drink minimum. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.TrueConfessionsStraightMan.com.